Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pick your Poison - 10 Questions For Mystery Writers

Today I got to enjoy giving a lecture with my Sister in Crime, Antoinette Brown, on poisons. She discussed the psychological aspect, and I went over the various types of poisons and how they're treated. So, betwixt us both you see, I have compiled ten questions that as a writer  can help to keep things consistent.

1) Why Is your Killer Using Poison?  

Is your murderer aged or infirm? Hate the sight of blood? Are they trying to get away with it by establishing an alibi far from time and place of death? Do they want the victim to suffer? (Poisoning can be a slow, agonizing way to die.)  Figure out why your murder is using the poison, because that will help you answer the next question.

2) Do they want their victim to die right away or over a long period of time? (Acute or Chronic poisoning?)

Does your murderer want to watch to make sure their victim is dead? Or will they trust to fate? Do they have to kill their victim before a new will is made? This also helps you narrow down your poison choice, so it's something to figure out.

3)  Does your Murderer want it to look like an accident or suicide?

In A THOUSAND DEADLY KISSES, my murderer is trying to frame someone for murder. They aren't concerned with making it seem like an accident, so they chose a very 'overt' poison. A poisoner who is seeking to avoid any suspicion of homicide might choose something intended to look more accidental, like poisonous mushrooms given to someone known to go morel-hunting.

4) What kind of poisons does your Murderer have Access to? 

If your murderer is a medical professional, they have a wider range of access to various drugs. For example, an oncology nurse might be able to get some radioactive isotope seeds, or a pharmacist would be able to make custom-filled gel-caps, or slip in some similar-looking but far more lethal pills into an order.  Does your murderer work in a laboratory that regularly uses cyanide in their experiments?  Are they an artist with tubes of Cadmium yellow and Pthalocyanine blue? Are they a delivery driver for a pharmaceutical company?  Or are they a housewife who goes for the old standby of rat poison from Wal-Mart?

5) Is Your Murderer trained in Administering Poisons?

If the poison is to be given intravenously, is your murderer capable of using a syringe or a needle? If the poison is being slipped into a capsule, are they skilled at filling capsules? Consider your murderer's education, profession, and skills.

6) Does the victim or the murderer have impaired senses? 

Famously, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot had one "failure" as a case, involving a blind old lady poisoning a box of chocolates. She was incapable of determining blue from pink, and put the wrong color lid back on the box after tampering with it. If your victim can't smell or taste well, then poison slipped into their food or perhaps into their toiletries might escape detection. If they can't see well, substituting different pills into a pill box, placebos for necessary medication or something more direct could be a safe choice for your poisoner.  If your murderer is impaired, they may not be willing to risk certain types of poisons, out of fear of harming themselves by accident.

7) How much Opportunity and Access does your Murderer have to their Victim?

If your murderer is constantly around their chosen victim, then they have more flexibility regarding their choice of poison. If they have access to their private spaces, they could put poison into their shampoo or toiletries, poison a toothbrush, and so on, taking a long time in the bathroom without comment. If they don't visit often, then they might have to bring the poison already prepared.  In Agatha Christie's A POCKET FULL OF RYE, the murderer has someone slip a poisoned jar of preserves into the household, thus getting to the victim without ever stepping foot across the threshold.

8) Is the Victim prone to Medical Issues- Allergies, Heart conditions, Diabetes?

If your victim is well known to have an intolerance of certain foods and a gluttony for them, the clever murderer can take advantage of this fact. A careful insertion of peanut-butter into a casserole for someone with peanut allergies, or filling a diabetic's diet coke with sugar and then replacing their insulin with saline?  If the victim is a known 'herbal healer', and accidentally dies after a 'hemlock cleanse', well, who would investigate further? Often a victim's weakness can inspire the poisoner's urge to murder.

9) What kind of medical treatment exists for the poison chosen and how fast can help get to your victim?

If the victim lives in a nursing home, then they will likely be checked on at least every eight hours, and medical intervention will begin quickly. If they live alone in a rural area, then help may not arrive until the mailman notices the mail piling up. Research the medical treatment available for a poisoning victim. EMS services now often can begin treatment for poisoning immediately. They are capable of pumping stomachs, inserting breathing tubes, and injecting counter-agents like Narcan for drug overdoses.

10) How much of your chosen poison does it take to hit the LD-50 dose, and how much will your murderer use?

LD-50 is the average lethal dose, or the amount that will kill 50% of its average victims. If your poison requires your victim to eat an entire cupful to die, you may want to consider something more toxic as your poison of choice. If the LD-50 is very, very small, like a single cyanide pill of James Bond fame, then your murderer doesn't need to get very much.

As for researching poisons, these links could prove helpful!

1.h2g2 - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Classic Poisons
Infamous Historical Poisoners
Alphabetical List of Lethal Poisons


3.Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

4. American Association of Poison Control Centers

5. American College of Medical Toxicology
Professional nonprofit association of physicians with recognized expertise in medical toxicology

6. Chemical Emergency Poison Control
Nation-wide Toll-free Poison Center Number 1-800-222-1222
Provides callers with reliable information about poison exposure

7. Poison Prevention Education web site

8. World Health Organization
Basic analytical toxicology

9. Poisons: Sinister Species with Deadly Consequences by Dr. Mark Siddall

10. Book of Poisons: A guide for Writers by Serita Stevens and Louise Bannon, 2007, Writer’s Digest Books
11. The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy Twelfth Night! (SCA Post)

If you see the SCA post label on this post, it means it is related to my activities as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Feel free to skip if you aren't into that kind of thing. :)  

As a member of the Order of the Laurel (The worldwide level of recognition of mastery in the study and recreation of pre-1600 arts- in my case, for calligraphy and illumination.), it is my responsibility and privilege to take students as apprentices, and "train 'em up in the way they should go."

When I was placed on vigil to contemplate joining the Order of the Laurel in 2011, two newish scribes came bouncing into my tent to beam at me with "You're So Coool!" faces. Which totally freaked me out, because that was the moment that I realized what it really meant to be a Laurel. Lots of people Who Should Know had been telling me all day that I deserved it and that no, it wasn't a mistake. But it wasn't until those two newish scriblets told me how glad they were that I was being recognized, because they thought I was awesome and looked up to me / my work, that it sunk in. It wasn't about what *I* thought about myself and my work. Being a Laurel is about other people.

Right after I was elevated as a Laurel. I had that terrified look alllllll day. Photo by Owen Townes
Her apprenticing contract, which I made
her write - photo by Cheryn Rapp
 In 2012, I took one of those newish scriblets as my apprentice for the art of calligraphy. People had been telling us both for a year that we should get together, because we're both calligraphy-nerds, and calligraphy is one of those arts that is a combination of extremely subtle details and minute corrections to technique = large changes.  We had had several conversations, about what we wanted out of the Laurel / Apprentice relationship.  My own Laurel / Apprentice relationship was extremely close (and continues to be so today, as she's one of my best friends), and I wanted a similar relationship with my own students because it's been such a wonderful part of my life. She lived in a different state, so I was concerned about whether the distance would allow that closeness to build, but thanks to Modern Technology, that was less of an issue.

The apprenticing Ceremony - whereupon I gave her a green belt
marking her as an apprentice.
Photo by Charlotte Hayes of Shutterbug Creations
We have a lot in common. We both can be patient with others and impatient with ourselves, driven with the need for perfection, ferocious with our defense of quality and standards, and unforgiving of little mistakes that no one else ever notices. Luckily, my Laurel taught me to recognize those things in myself, and how to temper them, so that I could pass her wisdom on.
My Laurel is the one with the riding crop. Photo by Bardulf Rouen.
Her SCA name is Isemay the Nimble, and her dedication to improving her skills went past intimidating into almost worrisome. She didn't need me to prod her into harder work, or insane projects, because she jumped into those all by herself. I didn't have to tell her to practice, or even give her technical advice, because it wasn't long before she was better than I was, pulling off pen twists and tricks like she'd been doing them for years.
An example of Isemay's work. Seriously?! This is ridiculous. Ridiculously AWESOME.

She needed me to be a sounding board, and a lot of times, the questions she'd ask weren't because she didn't know the answers, but because she didn't have confidence that her answers were right. My job was to build her confidence, reassure her, and stand in her corner while she fought her own battles. My job was to keep her from beating herself up over the small mistakes, to learn to let things go by so that she could keep going forward, and to help her celebrate the triumphs. It has been a lot of fun.

But unfortunately, everyone else could see how awesome she was too, and this last Saturday, she was also recognized as a member of the Order of the Laurel and a master of her art.

There has never been a moment that I regretted having an apprentice or felt burdened by my duty to her as her Laurel. It has been a great joy and a great honor to be known as her Laurel, and I can't wait to see what she does next.

Congratulations Isemay!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

10 Things Organized People can Shove Where the Sun Don't Shine

This article, "10 Things Organized People Do Every Day" pops up in my Facebook feed at least once a week. As we approach the time of the Resolution Making, it gets even more frequent. Okay internet. I'll play your game. Let's see how this worked today.

1.) They plan each day the night before.   I always do this, but what this trite little suggestion completely ignores is the complete and random chaos of life. Especially the three year old (Bug) and the thirteen month old (Pickle) chaos generators.
"What are we going to destroy today, Bug?
Mommy's hopes and dreams, Pickle. Mommy's hopes and dreams."

My plan for the day:

Go to the gym before ten.
Go care for a very good friend's cats
Go to Sam's to get milk,
Go to Target to get tupperware to put the new train set pieces in, and the daughter her own jar of nail polish.

(My christmas present was a gel manicure set, because I am fundamentally incapable of painting my nails and not smudging them within twenty minutes. The LED lamp dries it hard, and so far, I am LOVING IT. But the Bug was curious and wanted me to paint her nails, so I told her I'd let her pick out her own color to play with, as opposed to my SPECIAL AND EXPENSIVE GEL POLISH that makes me oh so happy. )

Get the loose tea for the Sisters in Crime Tea Party in a week.

Oh, and do the dishes, finish the laundry, feed children, clean up the living room with its decorative yogurt footprints, and get the gym bag repacked for tomorrow.


We all woke up around eleven, thanks to the thirteen month old and his desire to grow three molars at the same time. He doesn't want to sleep, and if Pickle don't sleep, nobody sleeps.
I tried to feed the children. Pickle refused to eat the packet of applesauce, but was enthusiastic about squirting it all over his shirt. The shirt was changed. Bug refused to eat anything but a glass of milk. I had a protein shake, I packed snacks, the gym bag, and got the kids dressed.

We got to the gym at 1:30. So far, so good, plan still possible. Pickle completely melted down at the realization that Mommy was about to disappear, so five minutes were wasted spent trying to soothe him a little. Gave up, went to do the speed workout so as to spare the poor childcare workers.

Got to the cats, filled bowls, scooped poops, counted anti-social eyes glaring out from under the bed.

We went to Sam's. We got milk, creamer, yogurt, cheese, Tupperware containers for the new toys, on-sale wrapping paper, and a cupcake-tote thingie I've been lusting for.

We went to Target. I bought string cheese for the now-hangry children, a sandwich for me, bananas, and the nail polish, because the only way to salvage the plan is to not go home for lunch.  Upon check-out, I discovered that the nail polish my child picked out was NINE BUCKS. No. We went back through the store and got something more in budgetary alignment. Hangry children violently objected.

Bug ate the string cheese and two bananas in the car. Pickle ate the string cheese.

Then, we went to the mall. I fully admit that perhaps I should have considered the wisdom of going to the mall two days after Christmas, but I did not. Eventually I clawed my way to the front of the desk at Teavana, aided by my stroller, and willingness to sic my toddler's siren-like wails on people.

You know what makes people in the mall move? A three-year old shrilly yelling, "EXCUSE ME I CAN'T GET TO MOMMY BECAUSE YOU'RE IN THE WAY." She is a very articulate three year old, with a death glare that many a police officer would envy. She melted three people with her pouty lip and accusing eyes right into oblivion.
"Yeah, even a three-year old is gonna judge you."

Eventually I managed to obtain tea for the local Sisters in Crime Holiday Tea party, at which point, my daughter, recognizing we were in the mall, began to beg and plead to be allowed to go the playground.

We went to the playground, because she had been very useful good in the store. Thirty minutes of rampaging children.

We went home. More on what happened next as we review the steps, but here's a spoiler. You know what you DIDN'T see in this list?  Any cleaning, dinner making, writing, or other house-related productivity. It was left-over night, but moving on.

2. They have, and keep, only one To-Do list.

I laughed hysterically. If I had ONE to-do list with everything on it, it would be eighteen pages long. Hell, the home-repair to-do list runs to four pages.

I feel the need to clarify this one. They further recommend keeping a notebook, because it's harder to lose than an index card.

I checked the bag I took today. There was not room for a notebook, among the diapers, change of clothes for each child, gym clothes for me, towel, water bottle, snack caddy, kids' water cups, wallet, and tiny toiletry bag.

I'm already hauling around thirty pounds of child + bag, and now you want me to add a (probably) color-coordinated notebook with my entire to-do list that will fill twenty pages, in which I have to find the latest grocery list? Screw you and your notebook. I'll stick with my baby-slobber coated index card shoved in my back pocket. Thanks.

3. They spend at least 30 minutes going through and addressing emails in their inbox.

My hotmail account has 730 unread emails in it. My primary gmail account had six. My secondary gmail account has twelve. (Hey, it must be royalty payment day!)  This shouldn't be that bad, right? Okay. Let's go.

Mark. Times are in minutes and seconds.

0:45 - Turned computer on, logged into hotmail account. No critical emails to look at.  I start deleting.

1:05 - Pickle is crying because he just fell off the chair I didn't think he could climb yet.

2:17 - back to emails, Pickle is safely ensconced in the pack-and-play.

4:12 - I switch over to my primary gmail account, having given up again on the hotmail. While I'm logging in, an urgent scream of MOMMY echoes from the kitchen.

4:16 - Having teleported from my desk to the kitchen, I find my daughter is upset because her ponytail is falling out.

5:30 - back to emails.

5:39 - Pickle starts crying. He is tired of the pack-n-play and wants out.

5:46 - I have made it a third of the way through one email when my daughter needs to potty.

7:18 - Pickle is now screaming. He REALLY wants out. I am still wiping butts.

8:12 - Pickle is halfway out of the pack-n-play thanks to a careful stacking of solid toys that have provided him enough leverage. I am just in time to tip him back in. He is not amused.

8:42 - I have responded to one email. Bug wants me to paint her fingernails.

10:28 - I started to open another email. Pickle has been released under the lobbying of my eardrums.

10:42 - I get the mop because my daughter has left her milk cup where Pickle can reach it.

15:13 - I sit down again. The next email requires me to open up an excel spreadsheet to log information.

21:42 - The silence is suspicious. I get up to go investigate.

21:52 - I get the mop again.

21:59 - I explain that the toilet is not an appropriate place to play with bath toys.

27:10 - Kids have been washed and clothes are changed. Bath toys are getting washed and bleached.

27:50 - Bug is mad because Pickle chewing on the remote turned off her cartoons. Must go turn back on the cable box, the t.v., and re-find Peppa Pig.

28:14 - Bug is hungry. Pickle didn't appear to be hungry until Bug got her yogurt, and then he went ballistic.

29:43 - Bug has eaten half her yogurt, Pickle has been given apple bits, I am back at my desk and set to .... What, I'm out of time already!?

Screw your thirty minutes. Seriously. I check my email all day on my phone because I can do it in thirty second intervals. Anything that requires an actual response is going to wait until after bedtime.

4. They clear their desk of paper piles

What paper on my desk? Is this really much of a problem in the modern day? Or is this just because I have a paper-eating child who guarantees that any scrap of paper will be rendered down into an nonredeemable goo, and therefore forced me to use alternative note and list-making methods? I don't have paper piles on my desk.  Now if you said BOOK piles...

5. They have a morning ritual and an evening ritual.

Pfft. I do this.

Morning:  Get up, feed children, hide in bathroom until they hunt me down and make me come out. Shower may or may not happen, contacts usually happen. Getting dressed depends on whether or not I intend to leave the house.

Evening: Oh we have a ritual. Do we EVER have a ritual.

9:00 - Bath time
9:30 - Start intimating that not only is bath time over, but it's BEEN over.
9:32 - Start threats regarding bath time being over.
9:34 - Issue order to evacuate the bath tub.
9:35 - Agree to one last game before getting out.
9:46 - Demand bath tub evacuation OR ELSE.
9:48 - Remove Bug from bath tub, despite high-decibel wailing.
9:50 - Refuse Bug's demand for ice lolly treat for being good in the bath tub.
10:00 - Time to watch Octonauts!
10:30 - Daddy play time for Bug, Pickle book time
10:45 - Vitamins for everyone.
11:00 - Begin negotiations to brush teeth. Pickle is tucked into bed.
11:12 - Insist that play time is over and teeth-time is now.
11:15 - Start threat of loss of Bug book time if teeth are not brushed in five minutes.
11:20 - Frogmarch Bug into bathroom to brush teeth.
11:30 - Husband escapes to bed, Bug gets read a book, issued a small snack and her night night cup of water, kissed, and tucked in.
11:33 - Bug is told to go to bed whether she wants to sleep or not.
11:36 - Bug is told again to go to bed whether she wants to sleep or not.
11:38 - Pickle wakes up because Bug is having a tantrum.
12:00 - Both children have worn their last gasp of defiance out and are asleep. Usually.

.. Oh, did you mean a ritual for me?!  ... I take my contacts out and brush my teeth.

6. They spend ten minutes at the end of every day tidying up.

Seriously? Do you time them? Is it only ten minutes? This seems more like a good idea being presented as "Other people who have tidier lives than you do this. Join them! Be a more acceptable and generally better human being today! All it takes is ten minutes ..."

Ok. Fine. In my ten minutes, I emptied the dryer, moved the laundry from washer to dryer, filled the washer again, and scooped the cat box. The yogurt footprints in the living room have not been addressed, and any burglar breaking into my house will need an podiatrist to remove the Lego from his feet if he avoids a full spine-breaking suplex from slipping on a random bit of train set.

7. They put their clothing in the laundry bin.

You know, I'm starting to sense that this article was secretly written with someone in mind. But sure. I put clothing in the laundry bin(s). Right after I pick it all up off the floor and put it in the bin so I can carry it easily down to the laundry room.

8. They never leave dishes in the sink.

What, never? Not even when they're trying to clear the table from breakfast so they can set it for dinner, which you didn't do in hopes of actually getting to the gym before the childcare closed, and the baby loves to crawl into the dishwasher, so that you can't leave the damn thing open, so where the hell are you going to put the dishes in your hands, while the toddler is yelling about being hungry, and the paramedic husband is trying to eat the food directly out of the pot after a twelve hour shift that was too busy to allow for lunch to be eaten? Not even then?

Well, goody for these imaginary people. Also, I am reeeaaallly starting to suspect the personal bias.

9. They carve out time for lunch.

... I don't understand this one. Who doesn't eat lunch, besides paramedics, cops, nurses, and medical interns, all of whom might have their hands too deep in someone's intestines to grab a sandwich? I don't think I'd be okay if my paramedic asked me if I could hold off on the heart attack for thirty minutes, as they're trying to carve out lunch time so they can be an Organized Person, but maybe the rest of the world will be more understanding that Grandma should have waited until after lunch time to fall out. I'm sorry medical / service peeps. You also, cannot join the ranks of the Organized Persons.

I like lunch so much I eat it twice a day. But then again, I'm nursing, so I'm perpetually hungry, thank you very much hormones.

10. They open their mail.

... Really? Opening all the junk mail will make me a more organized person? Reading that I may be eligible for a new credit card that I don't want or need will help me join these magical ranks of people who live in the white-carpet-and-couches homes in the Real Simple magazine?  I never see toddler rage in those magazines, so I want to live there. There's also no poop blowouts, or tired husbands, or overworked mommies. They also all have perfect hair and skin, and their clothes are always stylish.

I open my real mail instantly, shredding the envelope like a Wolverine because I love to get mail. I love Christmas cards and letters and packages. I love mail. It hasn't helped.

I'm sorry Organized People. I will never be one of you. But I am on top of my own schedule, my children are healthy and happy, and my husband loves me, even as he secretly mourns the lack of June Cleaver in his life when he steps on a three-inch yield sign, so I'm good. You go on with your envy-inducing selves, because I know that every now and then? One of you wishes you were me, too. :)

I sleep best on my children. That way I know exactly where they are.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book 2 in the Justice & Mercy Series!

Mercy Givens, feisty genius behind the Givens Detective Agency, is determined to win the San Antonio Chili Chompers Cook-Off Competition Her motivation? To stick it to Marlene Givenchy, reigning Chili Chomper Queen and world-class local diva. Justice, Mercy’s long-suffering twin sister and agency partner, has humbler goals: to get through the competition without strangling one or both of the competitors! 

When a Cook-Off judge, who also happens to be Marlene’s lover, dies after sampling her chili, Marlene and Mercy take center stage as suspects number one and two. Marlene hires the twins to find out who poisoned her chili, but it’s not long before she’s arrested for the crime. Mercy, frankly, isn’t sure whether Marlene is innocent or guilty. But it soon becomes apparent that the twins have taken over first place on the murderer’s To-Do list! 

Justice and Mercy pull out all the stops to do what they do best – find the truth, dodge bullets, and catch a killer! 

Print version is coming soon, (as soon as I get my proofs! Digital versions available on Nook, iBooks, Kobo (soon! There appears to be an error), and Amazon. Print versions will be available as soon as I get my proofs approved. (Darn Christmas mail slowing down the world!)  Also, look at that fabulous design by The Brand Box

Thank you all for your support, and if you have any questions or want to talk about the book, feel free to post in the comments!

Monday, October 27, 2014

"How did you write your book?"

"How did you write your book?"

October 9, 2009:

I was RIF'd from my job as an accountant. I decided to seriously try writing as a career. The husband was a new paramedic, we had no children, we could survive on his salary while I tried.

December 17, 2009: 

First draft of the novel was finished. 45,202 words. I realized that this was too short. I also had the first 100 pages or so dedicated to one case, which I closed and wrapped up before embarking upon the next case. And NEVER came back to the first case or tied the two together. And I got called on it, by multiple readers, but I didn't know how to fix it. So I ignored it. (Not a good decision.)

February 8, 2010: 

I make a fictional blog for my MC's, intending to put fiction on it as "samplers." A month later I read several blogs advising NOT to do this because it is excessively harmful to your publication journey. I take it down again.

April 15, 2010:

I decide to go back to school for a publishing degree, because I was stuck. I couldn't start on something else until I had finished that first novel, and while I couldn't justify the fine arts degree, the publishing degree seemed awesome as a second choice. I discover that there is no such thing as a degree in publishing. I decide to go combo English / Business.

May 2010:

Got pregnant. Freaked out about everything.

June 16, 2010:

Got unpregnant. Fetus never developed a heartbeat.  I was far more disappointed than I thought I'd be. Lost a few months to vague mourning and depression. But I am accepted to UNC Chapel Hill, and I start classes in August!

September 2010: 

Get re-pregnant.

November 2010:

Figure out how the hell I can FIX the glaring issues of the split-personality novel, and all it will take is a complete and total rewrite, and insertion of about 30,000 words. No biggie!

December 2010:

I post hopefully on my class forum about starting a writing group. Two people respond. I am disappointed at first, but we start meeting. And they are fantastic. They start reading chunks of the novel and providing MASSIVELY AWESOME feedback.

January 2011:

I get a new job!

June 2011:

I am RIF'd for the second time due to a larger company buying mine. The baby is born. Life is ridiculously complicated.

August 2011:

I manage to write 2,000 words on the novel for the first time since the baby showed up, and I practically throw myself a party. With chocolate chip cookies.

September 2011: 

I happily note that I think my rewrite is about 1/5 of the way done. I am not correct.

March 15, 2012:

Re-edited new version for Janet Reid's Liz Norris Pay it Forward contest. I should note here that the contest was the kick in the ass I needed to get the damn thing done. (Thank you Liz & Janet!)

April 22, 2012:

I am selected as finalist #8 out of 10 in the JRLZPIF contest, and I pretty much pee myself for like a week straight. This could also be because giving birth weakened all my uterine muscles permanently and one good sneeze caused wardrobe changes.

April 24, 2012: 

I do not win. But the person who does gets published shortly thereafter, so I am heartened!

I stagnated here for quite some time. I continued querying. Sort of. By which I mean like two or five over six months.

September 2012: 

I joined Sisters in Crime after re-reading through Janet Reid's and other people's blogs where they emphasized how important it was to join your professional organizations.

September 2012:

I enter a blog-Hop Query Contest called GUTGAA. I get two agent requests, and I am over the moon.  Both reject it later, one for language un-befitting a primarily Christian press, and the other for reasons I don't remember right now.

BUT TWO AGENTS LIKED MY QUERY. THIS MEANS IT MUST BE PERFECT NOW.  I really believed that too. I am so freakin' funny.

I keep querying, about five or six every few months, usually after I read a post by Janet screaming, "KEEP QUERYING. GET BACK TO WORK."

March 2013:

I'm pregnant again. Really?! .... REALLY!?!?!?

August 2013:

My short story is accepted into the local Sisters in Crime chapter's anthology. I am ecstatic as it will be my first publishing credit. Since I am in charge of submissions, I am also in charge of sending out acceptance letters. You're damn right I sent one to myself.

My husband leaves his job. We decide to take the chance to move to Canada and see if we can pursue a better life for us there.  I spend the next three months fixing up the house, getting ready to move, and purging everything we own.

October 2013:

We move to Canada. Right in time for what the Canadians describe as one of the worst winters on record.

What the actual F%@k, Canada. That is 8-12 feet of snow.

November 12, 2013:

My son is born. We are currently living in a friend's basement in Toronto.

December 2013:

I join the Toronto Sisters in Crime, because I am convinced it is a fantastic program. I go to the joint Christmas party between the T-SinC and the Canadian Crime Writers association, and win a door prize of thirty books. Which I carry home on the subway.

February 2014:

After enduring "one of the worst winters on record", we decide to move back home thanks to a job offer my husband received from from an employer he part-timed with previously and the fact our house hadn't sold yet.

March 2014:

Put the house back together, celebrate the lack of snow.

April 2014:

The anthology my short story was accepted for is published! WOO HOO!

June 2014: 

BOOK SIGNING PARTY! My very first one.  Karen Pullen, the President of our local SinC Chapter encourages me to submit my novel to Five Star Mysteries. I decide what the hell, and do so, because I'm so frustrated at the fact that it takes me an hour to craft a single query letter, and I have about two spare hours a day to work on writer-stuff.

July 7, 2014:

I get a reply from Five Star. They are accepting my book and I can expect to hear from a contracts manager shortly. My husband is annoyed by my lack of enthusiasm, as I have read far, far too much online about the increasingly worse contracts being offered new authors. Especially those without an agent.

And to date, I do not have an agent. I start going through and cleaning up my query spreadsheet, and send an "update" email to all the agents who I had yet to hear from on my query.

August 5, 2014:

I hear from the editor who will be handling my book, and receive a sample contract! Janet Reid recently posted a blog post with resources for authors who don't have agents. I bought the book she recommended, and started going through the contract with book in hand and notepad on my knee.

Why I didn't accept the contract is a whole separate post that I will never make. Business deals are like dates. What may completely turn you off may be exactly what someone else is looking for, and that someone else might be you in five years.  It should not be taken as a denigration against Five Star. Their contract terms were not ones that I considered acceptable for me in the current publishing climate, but I went into the negotiations prepared to walk away if certain things were not on the table and with a contingency plan. In fairness I don't consider most of what apparently passes for customary contract terms in publishing to be acceptable.

Their reply letter made it clear that they weren't interested in negotiating the points that I considered deal-breakers, so I chose to walk away. I have since wondered if perhaps I gave up too easily, but I don't have a lot of free time and I find negotiating stressful as hell, so I chose not to go through it.

Side note: I do believe very strongly that if you sign a contract for a deal that you aren't happy with, you only have yourself to blame. If you sign a contract and you ARE happy with that deal? Don't let anyone else tell you differently. What's right for you is up to you to decide. I'm notoriously touchy about contracts, and I read EVERYTHING. Several times if I must.

I hired a professional layout and graphic design artist. She did an amazing job building a cover, custom dingbats, the internal layout and kerning, and all the good meaty stuff that makes a book a pleasure to read. She did a fabulous job and I have no hesitation in recommending her to any other writers looking into self-publishing.

I looooooooooove this picture. 

September 2014

I read business books, (Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Freelancer's Survival guide? Must have.) built a business plan, opened a business account, worked with Jennifer on the layout and cover decisions, opened accounts in all the online and print vendors I chose to work with, bought a domain name.

October 15, 2014

I start uploading files to all the vendors. Easiest and fastest? KDP Select. Most irritating? Kobo. We had four days worth of error messages to try and repair and their customer service has a 24 hour turn around time with at least two layers of "well, keep doing what didn't work the first time." We eventually solved it ourselves. Sort of.  iBooks is maddening in that you MUST be an Apple user or have access to a mac in order to download the software required to upload a book to their store. Luckily, Jennifer is an Apple user and was willing to help out.

October 15, 2014

My book is officially for sale on Amazon as an e-book. I don't want to announce it until a print copy is available.

October 16, 2014

I order proofs from Createspace. They ship the same day. (What?! Damn yo.)

October 17th, 2014

My book is awaiting proof approval with IngramSpark and Createspace, but is for sale on  Nook, and Kobo,

October 23, 2014

I ANNOUNCE. I spam, I blather, I sob, I open a bottle of champagne I forget to drink. And then I get back to work on the second book, tentatively titled A Thousand Deadly Kisses, to be released in December 2014.

Friday, October 17, 2014

*cough* Look to the right.... your other right..

Why yes, that is a book cover. And it is linked to, *GASP* The sale of my first mystery novel available now on AMAZON.

(Also available on Nook and Kobo, iBooks is pending, the print versions are also pending the proofs hitting my hot little hands so I can roll around on them. And check for issues, but mostly the rolling thing.)

This isn't the official release notice, and giant blather post with tears and blubbery platitudes. I just figured if anyone came to my blog, perhaps the first thing they shouldn't see is the previous post, cheerfully entitled, "THE DAY OF PEE."

First impressions and all that.  SPEAKING OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS, by the way, I also made a mailing list button. Feel free to sign up if you want to know when the next book is out. [December 2014]

Now back to writing.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Day of Pee

9:00 a.m. - The three-year old, henceforth known as Bugbug wakes up screaming. Because her diaper is wet. I change her diaper, and discover that the bed is also wet.

10:00 a.m. - Bugbug drinks some apple-juice. The 10-month old brother, herein known as Pickle, wakes up. Also in a puddle. I wonder if the excess humidity was somehow absorbed through their skin.

11:13 a.m. - Bugbug says "Mommy, I think I'm going to have an accident!"

11:14 a.m.- Mommy carefully explains the difference between "going to have" and "already had".

11:15 a.m. - Mommy finishes cleaning the floor.

11:48 a.m. - The Pickle loaded up in the Pickletank manages somehow to ram the training toilet that the Bugbug had just used despite it being tucked in the furthest possible corner.

11:53 a.m. - The toilet, floor, and the couch are all clean again.

12:23 p.m. - Pickle needs a diaper change. There is a tiny poop, of the sort that I have named the "Cork".

1:03 p.m. - The Pickle needs another diaper change, of a far more voluminous sort.

1:29 p.m. - BugBug gets a glass of ginger ale for going pee in the potty.  She didn't quite manage to get her dress out of the way.  Mommy does not discover this until after she picks up the soaking wet Bugbug who requested a hug.

1:47 p.m. - Mommy and the Bugbug are out of the shower and dressed again. The floor is Swiffered. Mommy has resolved to steam-mop the floor again tomorrow.

2:23 p.m. - Bugbug again informs Mommy that she thinks she's going to have an accident. Mommy, wise to the misuse of tense, checks the butt and discovers that indeed the panties are wet. Upon inquiring where she already had an accident, the Bugbug says, after some careful thought, "In Mommy's room!"

3:05 p.m. - Mommy's room is now clean, and Mommy is throwing laundry in the washer.

3:06 p.m. - Bugbug wanders up.

"I'm not having a good peepee day, Mommy."
 "No, you're not," agrees Mommy. "You've had two accidents."
"Three accidents." says the Bugbug, who is very good at counting.

3:17 p.m. - Mommy breaks open the Mike's Hard Lemonade.

4:23 p.m. - All known pee puddles have been identified and cleaned. Including the footprints going up the hallway and into the kitchen.

5:02 p.m. - Mommy tries to go pee. Pickle knocks over the Bugbug's milk cup, as reported by the Bugbug at the top of her lungs. Mommy decides that it's just because the Pickle is trying to help by denying fluids to his leaky sister, and tells her to chill out and Mommy will fix it after she's done going potty.

"Hang on Mommy! I'll clean it!"  Mommy gets her pants back on in record time, but still not fast enough.

5:03 p.m. - Bugbug tries to help clean up the milk. By taking the cloth that Mommy carelessly left within reach after the last pee puddle, and using it. On the Pickle. Mommy resolves to get another cleaning rag bucket - with a lid and a padlock.

5:58 p.m. - The Pickle has been re-cleaned. The Pickletank has been re-cleaned. The floor has been re-cleaned. Mommy is out of Mike's Hard Lemonade. Luckily, Mommy still has tequila.